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While the Hoh Visitor Center mural is proceeding, I did this “little” wayside painting for the Santa Fe Trail with the National Park Service. A fun and very different sort of project for me.
Last year I did this sketch for Aztec Ruins National Monument, but it wasn’t used. They wanted something less ‘social’. This is Armijo’s Expedition in 1829, a group that went from Santa Fe to California and back, proving this route could be used for trade. In the painting, they’re crossing the Animas River in New Mexico. They’ve had a difficult day herding 150 horses and mules, and the group is setting up camp for the night, beans are in the pot, gear is being unloaded.
To do this painting, I went over to Olympic National Park and photographed the two ladies that take care of the 34 mules the park uses for backcountry use. Amazing afternoon! Here are Heidi and Jill, seasonal drovers who push those big mules around like they were goats, and you can see I turned them into Spanish young men in the painting. Others models included my neighbor, Michael, who is the cook. Jill and Heidi are in other poses, as well as Henry the mule.
And this is what it’s all about for me. I learned a LOT on this project, had a great time figuring out how this might look, how the gear would look in 1829. It took over a year from field trip to Aztec Ruins to painting completion. It went from an installation at Aztec to several other installations along the Santa Fe Trail, and I really know about pack mules.
And here’s the Animas River at Aztec New Mexico where the scene is located. It looks exactly the same as it probably did 188 years ago.
Thanks for reading this week.
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